‘It is right to give thanks and praise’. The Church gives thanks to God through the Eucharist. The word ‘Eucharist’ derives from the Greek word for giving thanks. The Eucharistic Prayer at the core of the Mass is a whole prayer of praise and blessing. In this great prayer, we recall the wondrous works of God and we remember with special gratitude the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. “We give to God all that we are and have, uniting ourselves with the self-giving of Jesus himself. United with Christ, we life up our hearts to the Father and give him thanks and praise” (One Bread, One Body, 34).
The leper in today’s Gospel offers us a lesson in gratitude and faith. It is easy to ask for help, to call out “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us!” It is not so easy to appreciate the implications of what God is doing in our lives. Of course we would all like to think that we would be the one leper who came back to give thanks to Jesus when he saw he was healed. But in reality, are we more like the nine who forgot to give thanks? What Jesus wants to know is, “the other nine, where are they?”Nine of the ten lepers cured by Christ accepted their healing without appropriately acknowledging the great gift they had been given. And there is a deeper lesson here, found in the seemingly simple sentence about the grateful leper “the man was a Samaritan”. Samaritans in Jesus’ time were looked down upon, even despised. But Jesus reached out to them, moving through their towns – healing them.
Elsewhere in the Liturgy of the Word, St Paul warns: “If we disown him, then he will disown us”. The formerly sceptical leper Naaman in the Old Testament returns to Elisha filled with gratitude and praise for God once his leprosy is healed by plunging in the Jordan. He resolves to live the rest of his days worshipping no other god but the Lord. For is, fervent thanksgiving prevents us from ever denying God; it keeps us strong in the faith that saves us.
(Adapted from Intercom, October 2013)